Violent imagery on murals being emulated by rioters: Allister

'The Petrol Bomber' mural in the Bogside.
'The Petrol Bomber' mural in the Bogside.
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A wall mural glorifying petrol bombers in Londonderry should be removed as it “blatantly promotes” the kind of violence seen in the city in recent weeks, Jim Allister has said.

The TUV leader said Sinn Fein calls for calm had no “credibility or authority” while they support the murals’ continued display.

Following a number of brick and petrol bomb attacks on the mainly Protestant Fountain area in the run up to the Twelfth celebrations, youths from the neighbouring Bogside area attacked police for six consecutive nights.

In the early hours of July 12, two explosive devices were thrown at police officers on the city walls and more than 70 petrol bombs were thrown during what the PSNI called a “prolonged and sustained” attack.

Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald called for an end to the violence and said political and community leaders should unite to “demand an end to it”.

She added: “Young people should not be exploited as cannon fodder to do the bidding of those with failed political and personal agendas.”

However, Mr Allister said such calls where hypocritical in light of Sinn Fein representatives criticising the police response to the violence as “heavy handed” – and the party’s ongoing support for the murals celebrating the role of “children on the frontline”.

Mr Allister said: “For days Sinn Fein has presented itself as on the side of law and order in Londonderry, but, true to form, as soon as arrests were necessary in pursuit of law and order Sinn Fein lined up to condemn the police.

“The week long assault on the Protestants of the Fountain again exposed the sectarian heart of Irish republicanism. It was straight out of the Provo playbook, including orchestrating the use of children on ‘the frontline’.

“Of course Sinn Fein’s serial glorification of terrorism is the defining context in which this next generation of republican activists are growing up.”

The TUV leader said the presence of the mural depicting a child with a petrol bomb posed a challenge to Sinn Fein and the Bogside community, and added: “With a massive Sinn Fein-supported mural depicting and glorifying a petrol bomber in the heart of the Bogside, it is little surprise that impressionable youths ape the actions of those presented to them as heroes.

“So, if there is any sincerity to Sinn Fein’s supposed support for law and order let them begin by overseeing the removal of this mural which so blatantly promotes and justifies petrol bombing. Sinn Fein can’t with any credibility or authority condemn the petrol bombing of the last week while glorifying the very same actions through insisting that this mural stays.”

Mr Allister went on to say: “If young people grow up in the shadow of such an image it should come as no surprise that they seek to emulate what is depicted.”

A Sinn Fein “The people of the Bogside won’t be dictated to by Jim Allister, nor taken in by his selective condemnation of violence.

“Sinn Féin have been unequivocal in our opposition to the attacks on the police in Derry and our support for law and order. That doesn’t mean we cannot represent the need for the very highest standards of policing. We do that across the island. It is part of any public representative’s job to hold statutory agencies to account.”

Chairman of the Bogside Artists who produced the series of murals said it was “with some dismay” that they read Mr Allister’s statement, and expressed concern that he “sought to link the abhorrent actions” of recent weeks to ‘The Petrol Bomber’ mural.

Emmet Doyle said: “This mural depicts the scenes in our community from August 1969 known as the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ and is part of the People’s Gallery which is a key cultural and artistic asset for the city and the wider north west.

“It is neither sectarian nor suggestive in its features and has never, and never will be reliant on the support of political factions as Mr Allister suggests when he writes that the mural is ‘Sinn Féin supported’.

“The Gallery is supported by the only people who matter to the artists and my committee, the residents of the Bogside who have sustained and defended all of the murals for 24 years.”

Responding to the artists’ statement, Mr Allister said: “As for the comments of the Bogside Artists comments about the reconciling petrol bomber, I don’t believe that many people looking at the image share their benign interpretation of such a violent image.”